DER Documentary

Funeral Season

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by Matthew Lancit
color, 87 min / 60 min, 2011


Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
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“We pray to our ancestors but we do not worship them. You, you need an intermediary, the priest. But for us, our intermediary is the ancestor who is sitting next to God,” says Poundé, the old Cameroonian ethnologist, to the young Jewish director from Canada. And with this conclusive statement, everything becomes clear: the funerals in memory of “the dead who are not dead” organized several days or even years following the burial, the chants, brass bands and traditional dancers who accompany and punctuate the village rituals. The ancestral rites struggle to survive in a continuously westernized society of consumption by parading wealth and excess for all to see — even the dead.

Funeral Season takes the viewer through the red dust of Cameroon's laterite slopes and into the heart of the Bamileke country, where one funeral flows into the next. These death celebrations provide an opportunity to see elaborate costumes and masks, festive songs and dances, and lavish feasts, while illuminating the communal links which bind the Bamileke as an ethnic group and society. Along the way, the director befriends his guides and becomes increasingly haunted by memories of his own ancestors. At times, the dialogues alienate him from the locals; at other times they bring the two closer together. Like the dead and the living, they belong to two different worlds often mirroring each other.

There is a lightness to be found in this subjective ethnographic film which imaginatively and symbolically turns the gazes of two different worlds upon each other.

“A snapshot of our multicultural, inter-connected world.” — Liz Ferguson, Montreal Gazette
“A highly personal and refreshingly humorous take on the often sober subjects of African film.” — Christopher Sykes, Montreal Mirror
“A documentary in which ethnography is flipped on its head.” — Jury of Traces de Vies - Rencontres du Film Documentaire
“Woody Allen in Cameroon… This extraordinary burial-road movie takes us into a world of ghost stories that we are only too happy to believe.” Ethnocineca Documentary and Ethnographic Filmfest Vienna

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
ESPIELLO Prize for best ethnographic documentary, ESPIELLO Film Festival, Spain, 2014
Rising Star Award, Canada International Film Festival, 2011
Menzioni Speciali, Contro-Sguardi, Italy, 2010
Prix du Premiere Film Professionnel, Traces de Vies, France, 2011
Award, Dallas Black Film Festival, USA, 2011
The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, USA, 2014
Espiello International Ethnographic Documentary Festival, Spain, 2014
Antropofest, Czech Republic, 2013
Intimate Lens Ethnographic Film Festival, Italy, 2013
Musée Dapper, Paris, France, 2012
Greenpoint Film Festival, USA, 2012
Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, USA, 2012
Ethnocineca Ethnographic and Documentary Filmfest, Vienna, 2012
Queens World Film Festival, USA, 2012
IBAFF International Film Festival, Murcia, Spain, 2012
Dhaka International Film Festival, Bangladesh, 2012
AntroCircle Film Series at University of Wisconsin — Madison, USA, 2012
European Association of Social Anthropologists at Nanterre University - Paris, 2012
Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival, 2011
Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, Brazil, 2011
FESPACO — Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, 2011
Sheffield Doc/Fest (Videotheque), UK, 2011
Jerusalem Cinematheque, Israel, 2011
Northside Film Festival at UnionDocs, New York, USA, 2011
Astra Film Festival, Sibiu, Romania, 2011
Corsica.Doc — Festival International du Documentaire, 2011
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